The View from Prince Street

Written by Mary Ellen Taylor
Review by Diane Scott Lewis

In modern-day Alexandria, Virginia, Rae McDonald has a successful career as a family therapist. Her own life is stagnant, her heart sealed off due to a tragedy in her past. Her sister was killed in a car crash. Lisa Smyth, the sister’s best friend, survived this crash but blames herself for the outcome. She lives a wandering life as a photographer and struggles with alcoholism. Lisa is forced to return to Alexandria when her Aunt Amelia, who helped raise her, must enter a nursing home because she suffers from dementia. When Rae renovates her historical home, she has a ruined hearth removed, and a so-called witch bottle is discovered. This bottle, a superstitious effort in the mid-18th century to ward off danger, links three families to a mysterious past: the McDonalds, the Smyths, and the Shires.

Faith Shire was known as a witch in the 18th century, but she is more a midwife and healer. Her history as to why she was branded a witch is convoluted. Old letters found in Rae’s home start to unravel the truth about these families’ origins. Two more witch bottles are uncovered. Everyone is connected through deceit and secrets. Rae and Lisa strain to conquer their demons and move forward.

The novel is mostly contemporary, interspersed with brief letters from the modern women’s ancestors. I’d liked to have seen more of the past. Rae is a difficult character to care about due to her iced-up emotions, though she starts to melt later. Lisa is more sympathetic. The author can be repetitive in her exposition, and throws in characters from a previous novel. Still, the story holds interest, and a surprise or two, and will please Taylor’s fans.